Duke Energy and EPA Reach Agreement on Dan River Coal Ash Cleanup

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Duke Energy have signed an agreement regarding cleanup of the coal ash release that occurred at the retired Dan River coal-fired power plant in North Carolina in February.

As part of the deal, the EPA will oversee the cleanup and Duke will reimburse the agency for its oversight costs. The agreement also requires Duke to reimburse the EPA for all previous response costs associated with the spill.

The EPA will consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine the measures needed to adequately clean up the spill. The process will include performing a comprehensive assessment, determining the location of coal ash deposits, and removing deposits as deemed appropriate.

The spill occurred on Feb. 2 when a storm drain under a coal ash pond at the plant near Eden, N.C., ruptured, releasing around 38,000 tons of coal ash and 24 million gallons of contaminated water into the Dan River. The incident caused a black eye both for Duke and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which was accused of lax oversight of coal ash storage.

“This agreement represents a significant milestone in Duke Energy’s ongoing efforts to restore and monitor the Dan River and surrounding environment. Duke Energy is fully committed to the river’s long-term health and well-being. River water quality has returned to normal and drinking water has remained safe,” the company said in a statement announcing the agreement.

The order—entered into under the Superfund law—will be signed by both the EPA Southeast and Mid-Atlantic Region Superfund Division Directors, because the contamination extended from North Carolina into Virginia.

“EPA will work with Duke Energy to ensure that cleanup at the site, and affected areas, is comprehensive based on sound scientific and ecological principles, complies with all federal and state environmental standards, and moves as quickly as possible,” said EPA Regional Administrator Heather McTeer Toney. “Protection of public health and safety remains a primary concern, along with the long-term ecological health of the Dan River.”

For more coverage of Duke Energy’s actions following the Dan River coal ash spill, see “Dan River Ash Spill May Spur Tougher State Oversight, EPA Rules,” “Dan River Ash Spill Could Lead Duke to Retire 932 MW of Coal Generation,” and “Duke Energy’s Coal Ash Solution Could Cost More Than $10 Billion.”

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)